Politics & Government

Politics
6:42 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Snyder to sign 'Pure Michigan' funding bill

Governor Rick Snyder will sign a bill today to fund the Pure Michigan advertising campaign
David Plotzki Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign a bill today that would extend the life of the state's 'Pure Michigan' advertising campaign.

The measure allows for an addition $10 million to fund the popular ads. The Associated Press reports:

That's double the previous amount and raises overall Pure Michigan funding for this budget year to $25 million, as Snyder requested.

It will be the third bill signed by the new Republican governor, who took office in January. He signed two agricultural bills Tuesday.

Pure Michigan campaigns promote the state's beaches, golf courses and other destinations to potential tourists. The extra $10 million will pay for regional campaigns targeting cities such as Chicago, Columbus, Cleveland and Indianapolis.

The Governor is scheduled to sign the bill this afternoon at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn.

Unemployment
6:21 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Michigan jobless rate declines in January

Michigan's January unemployment rate was 10.7 percent
Khalilshah Flickr

Michigan's unemployment rate continued in decline in January to 10.7 percent. That's the lowest it's been in more than two years. And, it's three percentage points lower than the same time last year: the jobless rate in January 2010 was 13.7 percent.

The national jobless rate in January of this year was 9.0 percent.

Politics
4:37 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Judge continues Lansing library's gun ban

An Ingham County judge says Capital Area District Library patrons may not openly carry weapons in the facility.
michigandaily.com

An Ingham County judge has continued a ban on openly carrying guns into Lansing-area libraries until June. 

A temporary restraining order was issued against the Michigan Open Carry group last month.

Now an Ingham County Circuit Court judge has granted a preliminary injunction forbidding anyone – except law enforcement – from entering a Capital Area District Library openly wearing a gun.

Dean Greenblatt is an attorney for Michigan Open Carry.

He says library management has a bigger agenda.

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Politics
4:12 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Former U.S. House of Representatives candidate sues Facebook for deactivating account

Moughni sent hundreds of Facebook friend requests, prompting Facebook to shut down his account.
Moughni's campaign Facebook page

A former U.S. House of Representatives candidate is suing Facebook.

Majed Moughni  is a lawyer from Dearborn. He ran during the Republican primaries for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by John Dingell in 2010. His campaign strategy involved using his personal Facebook page to gain as many friends as possible across the voting district. But Facebook shut down his account in June before the August primaries for sending too many friend requests. Moughni says this also shut down his campaign.

Now he’s suing Facebook, but he’s not asking for money. He wants the social media company to stop using an automatic system to delete accounts and to restore his personal page. He says there should a way for Facebook users to appeal account deactivation:

“We think a multi-billion dollar corporation should at least have a live person that you can communicate with, a call-in center, that you can, you know, at least file a petition if your account was wrong deactivated – you should be able to get some recourse.”

Moughni said uprisings in Egypt and Libya prove how important Facebook is. But in his next campaign, he will use more than just Facebook.

UPDATED: According to the DetNews.com, a spokesman for Facebook said the account was disabled by an automated system that "is designed to prevent spammers and fakes from harassing our users and polluting the ecosystem." He also said that the "system always warns a user when they are nearing thresholds that will have features blocked or their account disabled. These warnings come as a pop-up that must be clicked through."

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio News

Politics
3:31 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Are today's protests in Wisconsin similar to Flint's sit down strikes?

Strikers guarding window entrance to Fisher body plant number three. Flint, Michigan - 1937.
Sheldon Dick Farm Security Administration

Are the Wisconsin protests becoming public employees’ equivalent of the Sit Down Strike in Flint, Michigan?

Professor Steven Ashby at the University of Illinois made the comparison Wednesday on Changing Gears’ partner station WBEZ.

Speaking with Alison Cuddy, the host of 848, Professor Ashby said the Wisconsin protests may be seen as historically significant as the events at General Motors in 1936 and 1937.

It’s an interesting analogy, because the sit down strike resonates with labor historians as the moment that the fledgling United Automobile Workers took root at the Detroit car companies.

And, while Flint got the most attention for the sit down strike there, the protests actually spread from Atlanta to Kansas City and Cleveland, just as the protests in Wisconsin have resulted in others across the Great Lakes states.

In the same way that Flint helped the UAW, Professor Ashby argues that the protests in Madison have given public — and private sector — unions a rallying point. Whether they can lead to preserving or growing union membership remains to be seen, however.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to know more about what went on in Flint, the Detroit News has a compendium of the strike here. And you can hear voices of some of the sit down strikers here.

Do you remember the sit down strike, or do you have relatives who took part? We’d love to hear your memories or any stories they’ve handed down.

Politics
2:22 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Michigan Lawmakers look to change legal notice policies

Legal notices are currently published in newspapers by law
Xandert Morgue File

On Thursday, members of the Michigan State House Committee will discuss two bills that could change how cities and townships publicize legal notices such as public hearings and foreclosures. 

Current laws require all legal notices to be published in local newspapers. But these bills would allow local governments to post the information on their own websites or an online newspaper. Other options include broadcasting the notices on a radio or television station.

Representative Douglas Geiss is the sponsor of one of the bills. He says it’s time for a 21st century update:

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Politics
1:46 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Michigan Senate passes controversial emergency manager bill

The Michigan Senate passed the bill that around 1,000 union members loudly asked them not to pass.

From the Detroit News:

Legislation that would allow emergency financial managers to throw out union contracts and overrule elected officials in financially distressed municipalities and school districts was approved in the Senate today.

The measure passed 26-12 along party lines in the Republican-controlled chamber. Similar bills passed in the House in late February. The chambers must now agree on a final version to send to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. More than 1,000 union members demonstrated opposition to the bills Tuesday, chanting loudly outside the chamber doors as senators worked through details of the legislation.

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Governor Snyder
12:58 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Snyder defends his budget proposal in Lansing

Governor Rick Snyder continues to defend his budget proposal
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder spoke to the Michigan Association of Broadcasters' Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference and Expo in Lansing this morning. As the Associated Press reports, the Governor continued to defend his idea for reinvesting the state:

...Snyder says Michigan citizens need to think about what's best for everyone rather than just themselves if the state is to reinvent itself.

...the Republican governor defended his nearly $2 billion in business tax cuts and the income tax changes he wants to make to offset that, including a tax on pensions.

He says people naturally object to changes that will affect their bottom line. But he believes "we are at a 'we' moment, and we can do this."

Snyder has been criticized for proposing deep cuts to public education, universities and local governments at the same time he's slashing business taxes and asking for people to pay more in income taxes.

He says a new approach is needed.

Commentary
11:45 am
Wed March 9, 2011

Funding Education

Mike Simeck, the superintendent of schools in Berkley, Michigan, has something in common with Governor Snyder -- or at least, with the way the governor ran his businesses:

He believes in proven results. “I run an organization that is the largest employer in our city, where I would hear from our client base immediately if we begin to fail,” he told me last night at ten o’clock, after each of us had put in more than a full day.

“I run this thing based on empirical evidence, on data and results, and as a result, we’ve been successful.”

That‘s no idle boast. Berkley is a small but diverse district with a little less than five thousand students. Roughly speaking, they are two-thirds white; one-quarter black, one eighth Hispanic and Asian.

He has affluent kids from Huntington Woods, working and middle class kids from Berkley, poor kids and Orthodox Jews from a slice of Oak Park. They run lean and mean and get results.

Want proof? More than four out of every five Berkley students who apply to the University of Michigan get in. Their ACT scores are way over the national average. Simeck, who’s been in his job for four years, says this is no accident. When other school districts outperform Berkley, they study them and make changes.

That’s helped lead to Berkley High being recognized by Newsweek as one of the nation’s “public elite”  high schools.

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Media
10:53 am
Wed March 9, 2011

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller out

Vivian Schiller in 2009 sitting with Mark Cuban (left) and Bob Garfield (right)
David Berkowitz Flickr

Update 10:53 a.m.

The second hour of the Diane Rehm Show will focus on what the departure of NPR's CEO Vivian Schiller will mean for the network, and federal funding for public broadcasting.

The program starts at 11 a.m. on Michigan Radio.

10:29 a.m.

This news came from the NPR's news blog this morning:

NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller has resigned, NPR just announced.

This follows yesterday's news that then-NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation) was videotaped slamming conservatives and questioning whether NPR needs federal funding during a lunch with men posing as members of a Muslim organization (they were working with political activist James O'Keefe on a "sting.")

NPR's Board of Directors is responsible for the governance of NPR. Chairman Dave Edwards released a statement to staff and member stations. In the statement, Edwards said Schiller resigned:

It is with deep regret that I tell you that the NPR Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of Vivian Schiller as President and CEO of NPR, effective immediately.

The Board accepted her resignation with understanding, genuine regret, and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years.

But NPR's media reporter, David Folkenflik, says that's not the case. This from NPR news:

NPR's David Folkenflik talks with Renee Montagne about the latest developments, saying CEO Vivian Schiller was ousted in the wake of the controversy over News Analyst Juan Williams' firing last year and gaffes by an NPR fundraiser that came to light Tuesday in a secret video.

Folkenflik said the latest development, the secret filming of a top NPR fundraiser making disparaging remarks about conservatives, was the last straw for NPR's Board.

You can hear the interview with Folkenflik here.

Politics
4:44 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Unions clog Capitol over emergency manager bill

Teachers protest in Lansing on February 26th, 2011. There were more union protests today.
MEA

More than a thousand union members crowded into the state Capitol today.

They were protesting a proposal to give emergency financial managers more control over cities, townships, or school districts.

The labor movement is upset the bills would eliminate collective bargaining rights and dissolve union contracts.

The gavel reverberated in the Senate chamber as protesters in the gallery cheered, breaking the rules that prohibit demonstration during session.

They applauded Senate Majority Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer as she condemned the proposal for not having a salary cap.

Whitmer says it does not make sense “to vote for a bill that allows an emergency financial manager to make more than our governor.”

Outside of the chamber, hundreds of workers packed the three open floors of surrounding the Capitol rotunda – a scene similar to the pictures of protestors in Madison-Wisconsin.

They screamed for the recall of Republican lawmakers who support the emergency-manager bills.

But republican lawmakers appeared unfazed by the raucous crowd, and they plan to move forward with the proposal they say will keep many cities and school districts out of financial ruin.

State Legislature
1:44 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Protesters begin to rally in Lansing

Protestors have arrived at the Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Update 1:44 p.m.

The Detroit News reports the Michigan Senate is expected to pass the Emergency Financial Manager bill despite the protests taking place in the capitol. From the Detroit News:

A bill to give broad authority to emergency financial managers to fix a governing body's finances is expected to pass in the Senate on Wednesday despite boisterous union protests that punctuated today's session.

Senate Republicans voted down more than 20 Democratic amendments as more than 1,000 union members chanted "Kill the Bill" outside the Senate chamber. Their chants were audible as the chamber debated the bill, as were the catcalls of protesters crammed into the gallery above the Senate floor.

The union members protesting the bill say it would make emergency financial managers too powerful, "allowing them to toss out union contracts, overrule elected officials and dissolve city councils and school boards."

10:59 a.m.

Protesters have arrived at the state Capitol to show their opposition to a measure that would give more power to Emergency Financial Managers. Laura Weber sent this report from Lansing:

The state Capitol is jammed this morning with a raucous group of union members and supporters who are opposed to a proposal to grant more power to Emergency Financial Managers. Hundreds of protesters are chanting "kill the bill" loudly outside of the Michigan Senate chamber as lawmakers prepare to vote on the controversial measure.

Still hundreds more are on the Capitol lawn rallying against the emergency manager bills. The package of bills would strip unions of collective bargaining rights, and dissolve union contracts, if an emergency manager was put in place to take over the finances of a struggling city, township, or school district.

The Associated Press reports there are around 1,000 people demonstrating:

...protesters are at the Capitol objecting to bills that would give broad new powers to emergency financial managers appointed by the state to run struggling cities and schools.

The Senate plans to vote on the measures Tuesday. The House passed the bills two weeks ago.

Groups opposed to legislation they consider anti-union are holding the morning rally and also are chanting inside the Capitol.

Local officials warned during a Monday news conference that the financial manager measures would take away voters' rights by removing the authority of elected school board members, mayors and council members.

Workers warn that the bills could allow financial managers to terminate union contracts.

Supporters of the legislation say it would lead to earlier intervention in financially troubled communities and schools, avoiding bigger crises.

Commentary
9:02 am
Tue March 8, 2011

Taxing Credibility

Two plus two equals four. Simple, right? That’s math even a journalist can understand. Unfortunately, the legislature and a large section of the general public doesn’t quite seem to get it.

State government is currently on course to run a huge deficit for the next fiscal year. State budget deficits are illegal, under Michigan’s Constitution. That budget has to be balanced by September 30.

Four months ago, we elected a ton of Republicans to the legislature who pledged they wouldn’t vote for any new taxes, no matter what. We elected a Republican governor who said he was going to deeply cut taxes on business, because he believed that was the only way to attract new jobs and industry to this state.

So we voted for no new taxes of any kind, less taxes on business, and we‘ve got a big budget deficit to start. And now we are shocked, shocked, that the governor is insisting on making huge cuts in state spending.

Well, we shouldn‘t be.

We voted for this. And, we tolerated the last governor, and several different past legislatures, refusing to deal with our problems. We put things off till we couldn‘t do it any more.

And now, we have to fix it. What‘s worse, we have to do this when we are still mired in the effects of the worst recession since World War II. Yes, I know the recession is officially over.

The economists say so, anyway. But hard times are not even close to over in Michigan. The auto industry is never coming back the way it was, and we need a new economy.

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News Roundup
8:46 am
Tue March 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, March 8th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Protests, Vote Planned on Emergency Financial Manager Bill

The state Senate is planning a vote today on a measure that would give more power to state-appointed emergency financial managers. Opponents of the bill including teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees plan to protest today at the Capitol. Unions are particularly opposed to a part of the legislation that would allow emergency managers to vacate bargained contracts, Rick Pluta reports. Union leaders say they hope for a big enough turnout at the Capitol to persuade Senate leaders to delay a vote on the legislation.

‘Asian Carp Czar’ Returns to MI

John Goss, the Obama Administration’s so-called “Asian carp Czar, will be in Michigan today to talk about long-term strategy for keeping the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Federal officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also attend the meeting. The Corps wants to spend the next five years developing a plan to keep the carp of the Lakes. But, many say that’s not fast enough. Last week, Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and Michigan Republican Congressman Dave Camp announced legislation to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through Chicago-area waterways.

Embridge to Step Up Clean-up Efforts

It’s been 8 months since a broken Enbridge Energy pipeline leaked more than 800,000 gallons of oil near Marshall, Michigan. Winter weather has reduced the size of the cleanup response but now, Steve Carmody reports, the next phase of the cleanup is about to begin. Enbridge says it will focus this Spring on removing oil that is still resting on the bottom of the Kalamazoo River.

Politics
7:50 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

Unions to protest changes to emergency manager laws

Teachers protest in Lansing on February 26th, 2011.
mea.org

Teachers, police, firefighters and other public employees plan to march on the state Capitol tomorrow.

They oppose a measure in the Senate that expands the authority of emergency managers named to run troubled local governments and  school districts.

Unions say the measures strike at their bargaining rights.

Union leaders hope for a big enough turnout to persuade Senate Republicans to delay a vote.

Unions are particularly opposed to a part of the legislation that would allow emergency managers to vacate bargained contracts.

Mark Gaffney, president of the AFL-CIO of Michigan, says that’s unfair when the state is also looking to cut money for schools and local governments:

“You’re saying to a city that it’s easy to get a dictator and you’re taking money away from that city that puts you at the point where you might need him or her.”

Republicans say the measures offer local governments early help to avert a financial takeover, but once it happens, emergency managers need crisis tools to set things right.

Scott Kincaid, a member of Flint City Council, favors keeping the law and the authority it grants emergency managers.

"These bills give them unlimited authority to do certain things that, currently, we were able to solve our problems without doing those things. The system works right now, and I’ve experienced it. And it worked very well. We had financial problems in our community and we turned them around in 18 months."

Flint was placed under an emergency manager in 2002. The city recently asked the state for the authority to sell bonds to cover a $17 million budget shortfall and meet its payroll.

The state Senate is expected to vote on the emergency management bills as soon as tomorrow.

Election 2012
7:30 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

Republican challenger for Senator Stabenow's seat

A photo in the U.S. Senate in 2007. Randy Heckman hopes to be in a similar photograph in 2013.
US Senate

A former Grand Rapids judge is the first Republican to formally launch a campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Debbie Stabenow.

This opens the campaign for a Republican primary that’s still more than a year away.

Former probate judge and conservative activist Randy Hekman is the first but by no means the last Republican to launch a primary campaign.

Big political names including former Congressman Pete Hoekstra, former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, and Republican National Committeeman Saul Anuzis are among those eyeing the race.

Hekman says he intends to run on reducing the national debt and getting more people to support hometown churches and charities.

“You’ve got to change hearts of people because they’re core of our problem – the problem beneath the problem is in my opinion this self-centeredness.”

"I believe that we need local charity. I believe, for example, if every man, woman, and child that has an income in our country could tithe 10 percent of their gross income, that would be one-point-four trillion dollars that could go to charity that could meet this need in a much more efficient and human-based and human-centered way than currently."

The winner of the Republican primary in 17 months will face two-term incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow on the November 2012 ballot.

Politics
4:39 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

MEA plans rally in Lansing as Senate considers financial manager bills

A protester at Saturday's MEA-sponsored rally in Lansing
Michigan Education Association

The Michigan Education Association, along with the Working Michigan coalition, is planning a protest rally in the capitol tomorrow. From the MEA's website:

"Working Michigan, a coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting working families and Michigan’s Middle Class Dream, will be holding a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 8, to protest the package of "Emergency Financial Manager" bill that is currently in the state Senate."

According to the Detroit News, the state Senate may vote on Tuesday to bestow broad powers to emergency financial managers including the ability "to toss out union contracts and suspend elected officials in communities and school districts that are operating at a deficit."

The MEA is protesting what it calls a series of "attacks on Michigan workers."

Politics
11:21 am
Mon March 7, 2011

AARP organizing rally to oppose tax on pensions

AARP is organizing a rally to be held in Lansing
nasaimages

Organizers for AARP Michigan say their rally will be held on the east steps of the State Capitol Building on March 15th from 11 a.m. to 1p.m..

From the AARP Michigan blog:

The rally was the brainchild of AARP member and retiree Mary Lee Woodward of Oxford, who launched the effort on Facebook with the help of her daughter.  Woodward says she's heard from thousands of seniors who say new taxes on their pensions and other income will make it difficult to pay their bills. Many also object to elimination of a tax credit for low-income working families, and proposed cuts to schools, universities and local police and fire protection and road maintenance.

State Legislature
10:54 am
Mon March 7, 2011

Pension tax alternatives on the table for legislators this week

Michigan Senators plan to discuss alternatives to a pension tax this week
user lincolnblues Flickr

Michigan legislators are planning to discuss alternatives to Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposals this week.

One hot button issue is Snyder's plan to place a tax on pensions. That tax is estimated to raise $900 million.

It would go a long way in eliminating the state's budget deficit which is estimated around $1.5 billion.

It's angered a lot of seniors, and lobbying groups, like the AARP, are putting pressure on legislators in Lansing to keep the tax exemption on pensions in place (the AARP plans to hold a rally in Lansing on March 15th).

Laura Weber, with the Michigan Public Radio Network reported that Michigan Senate Republicans are meeting early this week to try to come up with alternatives to the pension tax plan.

Weber spoke with Republican State Senator Tory Rocca who said his opposition to taxing pensions is simple:

"It’s a tax increase, and on top of that it’s a tax increase on senior citizens, and if you look at what their cost of living is and what their cost of living increases are, they tend to have a higher cost-of-living increase than other people because a lot of their cost-of-living is weighted toward health care, which does increase at a rate greater than the rate of inflation every year."

The Associated Press reports that State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville didn't say whether Snyder's pension tax plan had enough support to win approval.

But he did say that if legislators want to scrap the tax plan, they'll have to find money elsewhere. From the AP:

Richardville said that if the Senate opposes pieces of Snyder's proposal they will have to balance it out by cutting programs or finding revenues somewhere else within the budget.

That's $900 million more, which could mean more proposals out of Lansing for bigger cuts.

Commentary
10:54 am
Mon March 7, 2011

Shared Sacrifice?

If you want to see why this recession was different from others in recent history, spend a little time over at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.

They’ve been seeing and feeding people they’ve never seen before, people who never imagined they’d need help.

The other day, I went to see Dr. Chad Audi, the mission’s President and CEO. Not only is their caseload flooded, he said, “more and more we are seeing the working homeless.”

These are people who have jobs, but still have no place to live. The Rescue Mission does what it can to get them into housing, but the need is far greater than it used to be -- and for many, the ability to give is less.

Incidentally, there are some who think of the mission as just a soup kitchen, possibly because of their mass appeals for help with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for the homeless. A soup kitchen was pretty much what it the mission was when it was founded a century ago. Founder David Stucky kept people alive with food from his own pantry during the worst of the Great Depression.

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